Local districts insist water is safe after environmental group releases study on chromium-6

SEATTLE — Is your water safe?

According to the Environmental Working Group, that`s an important question after a federal study found chromium-6 in most cities across the nation including many in Washington.

Chromium-6, made famous by Erin Brokovich, is a natural chemical formed by soils and rocks but it`s linked to stomach and intestinal cancer.

The group said over 200 million Americans are drinking water with chromium-6 above the level that a California scientist established as the public health goal. That health goal is .02 parts per billion of chromium-6,  which is less than a drop of water in an Olympic size swimming pool.

“It’s really concerning that the EPA hasn`t taken steps to make sure all drinking water across the US is safe," the group said.

The majority of counties in Washington have higher than the .02 health goal, with Kitsap and Mason counties  having the highest levels.

According to Everett Public Works,  which supplies water to the majority of people in Snohomish County, the numbers seem more alarming than they really are.

“It’s based on 1 in 1 million chance of cancer for somebody drinking two liters of water everyday for 70 years,” Operational Superintendent of Everett Public Works John McCllelan said.

Although the data says Snohomish County`s is about 15 times higher than California`s recommended level, McClellan says the water is safe.

“We are confident our water is safe to drink,” McClellan said.

McClellan added that California’s standard is both conservative and subjective.

The EPA has yet to regulate chromium-6, although they do have guidelines for all chromium. That`s 100 parts per billion and the districts across Washington are well below that level.

“We don’t have any industrial influences, we don’t have agriculture,” McClellan said.

Everett Public Works says their water is pristine but the issue is still confusing consumers.

“Maybe I will switch and stop drinking the tap water,” Everett resident Don Baker said.

Everett Public Works says there is no need to switch. Other districts are saying the same, including Seattle Public Utilities. They say chromium-6 is present in low amounts within a range of .063 to .17 parts per billion. In California, the public health goal is .02 but the regulatory level is 10 ppb.

If you are still wary, experts say invest in a good water filter, specifically reverse-osmosis filters that can break down chromium 6.

They say basic water filters not specified for chromium-6 do not break down the chemical.

EWG says the long-term solution is not water filters but better water quality.

They say the EPA has been dragging their feet on setting guidelines for chromium-6 for the past six years.

Places in Arizona and Oklahoma have some of the highest levels of chromium-6 in the country and EWG says people consuming those high levels could be more at risk for cancer.